Chrissy's Reviews > Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman
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Sep 27, 11

bookshelves: science, non-fiction, recommended-by-friends, biography, made-me-laugh-out-loud
Recommended for: scientists of any field
Read from September 15 to 27, 2011

This was one of those consistently solid books that built up to an even solider ending, so solid that it deserved a sustained slow clap, if only the author were still around to hear it.

Feynman as a narrator is hilarious, intelligent, mischievous, adventurous, and-- perhaps most importantly-- honest. I get the strong impression that these are traits that would have described him as a human being, an artist, a scientist, a friend, and a musician as well. No matter what he tackled, he seemed to approach it with the same humble confidence, the same commitment to truth and discovery, the same self-deprecating nonchalance. From lock-picking to fluid physics, he was afraid neither of pretending that he knew more than he did, nor of admitting that he didn't know as much as he pretended. His devotion to inquisitiveness, to trying and questioning everything, led to a remarkably unique and influential life. An inspiration to scientists everywhere.

I recently finished a biography of Paul Erdos which talked about Stanislaw Ulam's contributions at Los Alamos, and it was fascinating to tie it together with insight on the project from Feynman's perspective. All these phenomenally interesting minds! In one place! At one time! Knowing that such minds exist even today (as yet undiscovered, even!) gives me an eager anticipation for all the collaborations, explorations, and conversations I can look forward to as I move ahead in my field. The last chapter particularly spoke to me, as a student of psychology-- which Feynman describes, in his 1974 address, as "cargo cult science".

I feel like I learned more about myself as a scientist than I did about Feynman in reading this book.

And I learned a hell of a lot about Feynman.
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09/15/2011 page 60
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